I never expected to date a trans girl.

Looking back on my life, the little contact I had with anyone from the LGBTQ community was limited and defined by my skepticism, which I now realize stemmed from ignorance. Interestingly enough, I did not know Rose was trans when I first talked to her on the phone — I had her number before we ever met and was just getting to know her at the time.

Before I asked her out, she let me know that she was trans and at that time I realized it was a complete non-issue because the attraction was already there; I wasn’t going to let her go because she was trans. I moved quickly past my previous skepticism because I had already gotten comfortable with her and felt there was nothing to be skeptical about. Had I known more people from the LGBTQ community, however,  I would have dismissed my doubts and realized the emptiness of them much sooner.

Of my friends who know that my girlfriend is trans, many seemed to think I was attracted to her first for that reason, but the truth lies more in the fact that I saw her first simply as a woman, while recognizing being trans as an impactful part of her identity.

I wasn’t seeking a woman who was trans, but I had never decided I would not date a trans girl either. I am the same as everyone in seeking a desirable relationship, but I often differ because my range of what I consider desirable is much larger than most. Some people have said I am crazy for who I have dated or been with, and I respond to that by saying they are crazy for who they have not been with.

One of the most valuable insights I came to as a result of our relationship is knowing how important it is to be free enough to develop personal standards. A few years ago, I would have told myself I could never be happy with a trans girlfriend, and I would have continued to embrace without question the ideal of the perfect woman I had adopted from portrayals of women in the media.

However, I have learned and know my “perfect” woman is yet to be defined and discovered, and that pursuing ideals that aren’t honestly my own is unlikely to lead to true satisfaction. I also knew before I started dating Rose that, in truth, I could not judge whether a relationship with her would be right without experiencing one, so I decided to give it a chance.

Looking back on our relationship, it has been one of the most eye-opening experiences I have had because I learned a lot about the unique struggles that are common to most trans girls, but equally so in terms of knowing myself.

I completely let go of the desire for familiarity because I hungered more for authenticity. As I navigated new territories spiritually, emotionally and sexually, I had to be honest about my feelings and let intuition guide my actions instead of modeling my expectations and attitudes on my behavior in past relationships.

Despite the unfamiliarity, our relationship has not been different from any of the others I have had; I came to know and love her just as would happen with any other girlfriend, mainly because in my eyes our relationship is just like any other couple’s is. I followed the search for a fulfilling relationship even as it took me where I had been taught I would not be able to find one.

Unfortunately not everyone shares that mindset. When you exist someone in the trans community, you get a glimpse into some of the scrutiny that they have to live with constantly. You become aware of other people’s suspicions that your relationship is somehow fundamentally different, which can lead you to fear that your connection as man and woman will be viewed as illegitimate.

When I realized my own convictions were more valuable than the judgments of others, I began to overcome those fears and began opening up more to my close friends about my private life. Because I was being authentic in the relationship, I felt our connection was based on meaning and not just curiosity or lust. I could not find anything that would delegitimize my interest in being with her.

Having that conviction made it easy to overcome the fear of others stereotyping me or my girlfriend as morally dirty or less than, because I knew they were simply wrong. I also recognized that I had only arrived at the conviction that our relationship was acceptable and right because I had experienced it with an open mind.

Even where mainstream society would say I lost the core of my heterosexuality by being intimate with my girlfriend, I felt I did not at all lose it; to the contrary, I felt it had been refreshed. I discovered new facets of my sexuality that I genuinely enjoyed and realized it was more flexible than I had ever allowed it to be.

In addition to learning these concrete things, I also figured out what allowed me the freedom I experienced, which is an understanding that love is ultimately a connection between minds rather than bodies.

Love comes from the mind and spirit but is expressed through the body, which is why the love I receive from my girlfriend is not at all the same as what gay couples exchange or as what another man could possibly offer me. Because I realized this, the thought of myself being gay was laughable. It makes sense to think I would be, but only from a far off, legalistic lens that sees categories more clearly than it sees reality.

Hopefully the rising coverage of trans women and men will continue to increase, and those who cannot make sense of the LGBTQ community will come to understand that their lens may be more far off and categorical than they realize.

Through digesting personal reflections like mine, I hope people will consider the facts of reality that should define and likely will alter their perspective, just as my experience altered mine and helped uncover truths about myself.

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